David Fincher and Ren Klyce came of age during a seminal time for Hollywood: when the pair were just kids, a group of ’70s filmmakers was reshaping what it meant to make movies, right from the pair’s native Bay Area. In a biographical detail almost too perfect to be true, George Lucas rented a house in Marin County to edit his “THX 1138,” that just so happened to be located right next door to the Klyce family’s home. A single suburban lawn is all that separated a then-9-year-old Ren from the great Walter Murch, just as he was starting to change modern movie sound forever, work he’d continue throughout the decade with another NorCal auteur, Francis Ford Coppola. And it would be on a Lucas-produced animated feature, “Twice Upon a Time,” that future sound designer Klyce would meet his Coppola, a then-19-year-old Fincher.
Over the last 25 years, as Hollywood has utilized the multi-channel surround technology pioneered by Murch to create bombastic soundtracks that all too often mask a lack of craft, Klyce has helped Fincher explore the subconscious underbelly of his own films, constantly refining how sound can be used to shape a viewer’s emotional response.
“To me, sound design is not about 96 channels all at 11, and two side cars giving you this sound pressure-gasm; to me, it’s very much about the detail and the nuance and maybe things that you wouldn’t even be aware that you heard until the second or third time you saw it,” said Fincher in an interview about his collaboration with Klyce. “I can’t talk more enthusiastically about someone [Klyce] I feel has very subtly pushed what sound designers do.”
Erik Messerschmidt, ASC believes that cinematographers get too much credit for how a movie looks and not enough for how the story is told. When you break a scene apart and assemble a sequence, the cinematographer has a huge part to play in the process of deciding when to move the camera, what lenses are used, how it flows and when it moves. Erik thinks when you look at it that way, cinematography has a lot more in common with editing rather than photography.
Erik’s most recent project, Mank– which is currently streaming on Netflix- was shot entirely in black and white. The look was the result of lots of conversations with director David Fincher. They both had a clear idea of what they wanted it to look like and also exactly what they did not want- too much heavy handed, contrast-heavy black and white cinematography in a film-noir style would take the viewers out of the experience, so it needed a lighter touch. Erik used fine art photography from the ’30’s to the mid ’40’s as a reference, and he and David Fincher wanted an homage to Citizen Kanewithout it actually looking like the film. Fincher was clear that he wished to transport the audience so they would lose their awareness of watching a black and white movie, and feel as though they are in the world of Herman J. Mankiewicz as he writes the script for Citizen Kane in the 1940’s.
Erik has worked with director David Fincher on several projects, first working as a gaffer on Gone Girl, then moving into the camera department on the series Mindhunter. Erik and David have become very close collaborators, and he enjoys working with him. Fincher likes a sense of hyper reality to his movies, and Erik sees it as his job as the cinematographer to learn what the director responds to, figure out how best to support their process and bring something to the party.
Before moving into the camera department, Erik worked for several years as a gaffer. After working with David Fincher on two seasons of Mindhunter, Erik needed more work since he was a newly minted director of photography. He got the opportunity to shoot second unit on Sicario: Day of the Soldado with cinematographer Dariusz Wolski as the lead DP. He then worked on a few episodes of the TV series Legionwith producer/director Noah Hawley and DP-turned-director Dana Gonzales, which was visually fun to work on. Legion’s look was whimsical yet dark, as it explored the main character’s mental illness and possible superpowers. He had the opportunity to work with Dana again on the finale of season four of Fargo. Erik also shot several episodes of the Ridley Scott series, Raised By Wolves, splitting the series with DP Ross Emery.
Beginning his collaboration with David Fincher as a gaffer on Gone Girl, cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt’s third collaboration with the director has now arrived nearly a decade later. Mank follows alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in his mad dash to finish the script for Citizen Kane, and Messerschmidt’s playful interpolation of Gregg Toland’s iconic cinematography is a sight to behold in every frame.
I spoke with Messerschmidt about his work with Fincher on Mindhunter organically leading to Mank, how Fincher doesn’t accept “much of anything he can’t control,” emulating the look of 1940s cinema without trying to perfectly recreate it, and he provides a list of movies he studied in preparation for Mank.
Jennifer Chung, Assistant Editor Ben Insler, First Assistant Editor Peter Mavromates, Post Producer
In this panel, you’ll hear Team Fincher discuss their TV and feature film workflows and see how they used the new Productions feature in Premiere Pro along with After Effects in a completely remote scenario during the pandemic.
They’ll also discuss their career paths and give advice on how to succeed as a professional editor.
It’s so exciting to sit down with Erik Messerschmidt, ASC – an Emmy-nominated cinematographer whose credits include the popular Netflix series MINDHUNTER, HBO’s RAISED BY WOLVES and David Fincher‘s latest Netflix film MANK!
In today’s conversation, me and Erik discuss his beginnings in the film industry working as a gaffer (learning from the best cinematographers in the business); a deep dive into his cinematography for the two Emmy-nominated seasons of MINDHUNTER; Erik’s creative relationship with David Fincher, and the thought process behind the infamous “multiple takes” Fincher is so known for; how classic Hollywood noirs of the ‘30s and 40s influenced the visual style for MANK—all of this, and much more.
Check out Erik’s new film MANK (now on Netflix), which many speculate will land him his first Oscar nomination for Cinematography in just a few months.
With films including Se7en, Zodiac and Fight Club, David Fincher has explored the darkest edges of humanity. Yet there’s more to his unique vision, writes Gregory Wakeman, as the director’s film Mank is released.
David Fincher fans have had plenty to celebrate over the past few months. September marked the 25th anniversary of Se7en, Fincher’s deeply disturbing psychological thriller that established the then 33-year-old as one of the most iconoclastic young directors in Hollywood. Then, just a couple of weeks later, The Social Network, Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s searing exploration of Mark Zuckerberg and the origins of Facebook, turned 10. Most exciting of all for Fincher aficionados, though, is the fact that, more than six years after the release of his last feature film Gone Girl, Mank will finally arrive on Netflix on 4 December.
Fincher has waited around 20 years to find the perfect home for the film, which was originally written by his father Jack in the late 1990s. But while most major Hollywood studios were put off by the idea of a black and white biopic of Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J Mankiewicz, Netflix gave Fincher carte blanche to fulfil his vision.
The early reviews for Mank have been extremely positive, and Fincher has immediately become one of the main contenders for the best director Oscar. Covid-19’s disruption of the 2020 cinematic calendar means that Fincher’s competition isn’t quite as strong as it could have been. But it’s to the Academy Awards’ great shame that this titan of modern filmmaking has somehow only received best director nominations for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network. Despite this oversight, Fincher’s place in the cinematic pantheon has long been secure. No other modern filmmaker has examined alienation, depression, obsession, and the dark side of intelligence like he has, while keeping a stylish, visceral, and, most importantly of all, entertaining approach.
It’s impressive when a Director of Photography’s first fiction feature is with David Fincher, notorious for his exacting eye in terms of both working methods and stringent aesthetics. But before Mank—Fincher’s passion project on Herman J. Mankiewicz and the writing of Citizen Kane—Erik Messerschmidt had been a part of Fincher’s team on both seasons of Mindhunter and even earlier as a gaffer on Gone Girl for DP Jeff Cronenweth. On Mindhunter, Messerschmidt’s camera infused the bloodless institutional interiors of its serial-killer/FBI interview set pieces with subtly vulnerable undertones, hewing to a Fincher playbook of visual control that telegraphs barely contained chaos.
Mank posed its own challenge with the director’s dream of making a black-and-white period picture in 2020, a vision of authenticity that is something of a chimera in cinema’s digital age. The story shuttles between Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) writing Citizen Kane in 1940 and his preceding years of experience with the people and society that inspired him, including Davies (Amanda Seyfried) and William Randolph Hearst (Charles Dance). Mank does not simulate the look of any single movie made in the 1940s but rather comprises a gentle pastiche of styles and signifiers (no office seems without slatted shades). Standout scenes include the banquets in cavernous Hearst Castle, where Mank dunks on the assembled high-flown guests; bull sessions in the screenwriter’s Mojave Desert bungalow as he hems and haws and bangs out the screenplay for Citizen Kane; a glitzy-weary 1934 election party for California’s gubernatorial contest, celebrating Republican Frank Merriam’s victory over Upton Sinclair; and anything featuring Seyfried as Davies, remarkably the sole true star in a film set in 1930s and ’40s Hollywood.
Speaking with Messerschmidt, I zeroed in on the feelings and associations within the look of Mindhunter, and the particular technical choices that went into creating Mank’s Hollywoodland.
Le grand film de Fincher débarque sur Netflix le 4 décembre. L’occasion d’un entretien avec le cinéaste, mais aussi avec ses collaborateurs les plus proches. 16 pages spéciales.
Scénario pour une critique par Nicolas Tellop
Filmopathe entretien avec David Fincher – par Nev Pierce
Collaborer avec Fincher entretiens avec Erik Messerschmidt (chef opérateur) – Donald Graham Burt (chef décorateur) – Trish Summerville (costumière) – Kirk Baxter (monteur)
2. Revisiter Fincher
Plongée exceptionnelle dans l’oeuvre de l’un des plus grands cinéastes contemporains. Filmographie commentée, analyses… 50 pages à lire.
4 nuances de Fincher par Jean-Sébastien Massart et Fabrice Fuentes
David Fincher en 14 titres Propaganda Films (clips) – Alien 3 – Se7en – The Game – Fight Club – Panic Room + les plans de Panic Room – Zodiac – L’Étrange histoire de Benjamin Button – The Social Network – Millénium + la musique hantée de Millénium – Gone Girl – Mindhunter
Démoniaque – la perfection du crime par Nathan Reneaud Fantômes et paranoïa par Jérôme d’Estais Solitude & obsession – Fincher Dogma par Alexandre Jourdain Poétique du suicide par Aurélien Lemant Le système des objets – design finchérien par Dick Tomasovic
“Mank” is the gripping story of the brilliant but troubled artist behind “Citizen Kane,” often considered to be the greatest movie ever made.
No, it’s not about director Orson Welles. Instead, it pushes Herman J. Mankiewicz, the alcoholic writer for hire who is responsible for bringing the film’s revolutionary, non-linear narrative structure and corrosive portrait of wealth and power, to the center of the frame.
“He was one of those voices that charted the way,” says David Fincher, the director who labored for nearly 30 years to bring “Mank” to life. “My hope is that people will be entertained watching a generational wit, who is in some ways forgotten and never got his due.”
“Mank,” which Netflix will debut Dec. 4, is also likely to reignite a fierce debate around the concept of auteurism. If film is truly a director’s medium, then who gets the credit for a masterpiece? It’s an argument about authorship that has swirled around “Citizen Kane” almost from the time it hit theaters in 1941. That’s largely due to the fact that Welles not only starred in the movie: He also directed, produced and co-wrote it while still just a 24-year-old wunderkind.
Others disagree about the extent of Welles’ contributions. As Pauline Kael’s controversial 1971 essay “Raising Kane” and now “Mank” make clear, “Citizen Kane” was greatly informed by Mankiewicz’s friendship with William Randolph Hearst (the newspaper baron who inspired Kane), as well his personal experience with media and politics.
You might think that Fincher, a revered visual stylist, whose perfectionism can drive film crews and actors to the breaking point, would be a subscriber to the Great Man theory at the heart of auteurism — the idea that some talents are so outsize they seep into every shot or beat of a movie. You’d be wrong though.
El primer y único guion que escribió su padre. Un proyecto con el que ha soñado más de 30 años. La leyenda detrás de la, quizás, película más mítica de la historia. Todo eso y mucho más es ‘Mank’, una mirada –en glorioso blanco y negro–a la figura de Herman J. Mankiewicz –un glorioso Gary Oldman–, y el film más personal de David Fincher. FOTOGRAMAS tuvo la suerte de compartir con él una extensa, divertida y exclusiva charla.
David Fincher (Denver, Colorado, 1962) tiene fama de perfeccionista y de no andarse con rodeos. Mejor: de tener una atención al detalle rozando la obsesión que es directamente proporcional a su nula capacidad de tolerar a todo aquel que: a) le impida materializar su punto de vista creativo; b) ose hacerle perder el tiempo, ya sea un mandamás en traje o la estrella de turno con la que comparta rodaje. Pero si alguien puede permitirse esa imagen es él. Fincher es autor –un término que, veremos, no comparte–de un cúmulo de obras que han marcado el pulso y también el camino del reciente cine contemporáneo. Así, cuando, una tarde de otoño, FOTOGRAMAS descolgó el teléfono para entrevistarlo, esperábamos encontrar a ese Fincher cuyos sets, según Robert Downey Jr., son como gulags. El director de las 100 tomas de media. El de los rifirrafes con los estudios. Y no, no fue así. ¿Hola? Soy David. Es alucinante.He conseguido conectar sin equivocarme, le escuchamos decir. ¿Es realmente David Fincher? ¿Dónde está el acostumbrado filtro del equipo de publicistas y relaciones públicas? Soy yo de verdad. No tengo agentes de prensa nirelaciones públicas porque todo el mundo sabe que no merelaciono en público, dice entre risas. Esa fue la primera carcajada. Toda una sorpresa. Y vendrían más.
La sombra de una duda
Desaparecido de la gran pantalla desde esa pérfida vuelta de tuerca al thriller y la comedia romántica que es Perdida (2014), Fincher firma con Mank su film más clásico, y también el más personal: un retrato íntimo de Herman J. Mankiewicz, experiodista, alcohólico vocacional, novelista frustrado y toda una personalidad entre los bastidores de la Edad de Oro de Hollywood que firmó, junto a Orson Welles, el guion de Ciudadano Kane (1941). Esa colaboración y un acercamiento sobre el proceso creativo y sus fuentes son el corazón de una trama que bebe de una de las polémicas más publicitadas sobre la autoría artística. En los 70, Pauline Kael, la referente de la crítica estadounidense, publicó en The New Yorker una serie de artículos –editados después en el ensayo Raising Kane (publicado en España por Cult Books como El libro de Ciudadano Kane)– en los que se aseguraba que Welles no participó en absoluto en la escritura del film. El mérito era solo de Mankiewicz, decía. Poco después, Peter Bogdanovich, íntimo amigo de Welles, respondería con otro texto en el que desmentía, con testimonios y las anotaciones del propio cineasta, la versión de Kael. La duda, sin embargo, quedó. Pero ni esa disputa ni tampoco su resolución, como si de un serial killer a cazar se tratara, están en el origen del proyecto. Lo que convierte este film en algo personal para Fincher es que se trata del único guion de Jack, su padre. Y el Rosebud de Mank, evidentemente, tenemos que buscarlo en su infancia.